Green Boots

The water falls on her head, on her face, around her ears. She sits on the floor and it falls encasing her in the only shelter she has found in this house. She feels safe, she must be, no one can demand anything from her while she´s in the shower. Her back hurts. Her feet, her womb, it all hurts but the hot water dulls the pain. She wishes she could drink it but the water in this city is as dirty as the sky. The light over the vanity mirror makes some water drops glisten while others cast small oval shadows.

Her daughter´s string of a voice tries to break through the sound of the shower, her daughter´s voice and the screech of a toy that keeps asking if anyone would like to go and play in the farm. Her daughter´s voice calls from her room: Mom! She answers I´m coming, I´m coming, as if she would.

There´s a scar on her pubis, the scar that wants to hide among the hair but can´t for it has turned red and blotchy, as it did the first time, when her daughter was born. It looks like a worm that inches through her body but it never moves. It twitches when she laughs. It no longer hurts. The first few days back from the hospital, three black knots signalled the beginning, middle and end of the opening and she had to clean it twice a day with the same ointment she used on her baby boy´s bellybutton. Two survivors of the same battle. Only her baby boy knows about the nine hours of labour, about curling up on the hospital bed trying to hold still while a long needle pierced her back, only he knows about the fear and the lights and the voice of the anaesthesiologist commanding her to hold still through the pain, to stop trembling. But her baby boy doesn´t know about the anguish of being responsible for two small children in a country that crumbles around them. A country that preys on its young, that chews them up and spits them out burnt to ashes. She often wonders what would happen if every dead citizen´s body remained as a landmark where his or her life was taken: that would be an unavoidable manifestation of grief.

She feels powerless. One month and seventeen days ago she was cut in half…

She feels powerless. One month and seventeen days ago she was cut in half and her baby boy came out through the emergency exit now guarded by a reddish worm she knows she´ll find it in her to hate. Not yet, now it´s just a worm that guards a gate, one more imprint that motherhood has left on her body, every deformity is but an avowal of their birth and her survival. If only she could still carry both children inside her body she could protect them from this Saturn of a country.

In the shower she feels safe. No one can come in and take them away, no one can say: give me that, feed me, keep me warm, it feels like a cave of her own where it rains just for her.

She is wearing bright green rain boots. By the end of her second pregnancy she wore them all the time to avoid slipping because it rains all year where she lives. At least that is what she said, but the truth is she wears them because they hide the fungi that inhabit her toenails and have turned them into tiny sandboxes where diminutive children could build castles and dig holes. She has been unable to banish the fungi from her southern territory because the medicine she needs is not to be taken by pregnant women or women who breastfeed, so she has to put up with yet another organism living on her body. This body hasn’t been hers for almost a year now but she has been unable to move somewhere else.

Her breasts feel heavy and her nipples tingle, then a sharp pain and the milk drips from them and joins the water down the drain. The baby boy cries now, he knows the milk is being wasted and his sister rolls the stroller in and after drying her arms, the mother takes him out, offers her breast and the crying stops. The mother might be getting a cold, she feels lightheaded and sometimes she trembles. It might be a cold, it might even be pneumonia and then she would have to be taken back to the hospital where she could sleep through the night.

She lies down on her left side and the white tiles welcome her like a pillow…

The green boots have come in handy for her feet are still swollen and no other shoe could fit them. The baby boy is asleep now and here he no longer smells of sour milk. Her daughter is sitting on the bathroom mat working on a jigsaw puzzle. Once in a while the girl howls as loud as she can to remind them that she exists and that she once suckled those breasts. Or maybe she just shouts because she likes how her voice bounces off the bathroom tiles, she screams because she is three years old and has a baby brother, she bawls because her mother won’t leave the shower. The big-eyed girl used to look at her mother from the bathroom door but she never asked: Why are you in there all day long? She used to sit and play in the hallway, by the door, she used to cry as she pulled yards of toilet paper out of the roll and now she has finally brought most of her toys into the bathroom. She used to need the complicity of her mother to play but now she builds towers with wooden blocks all by herself. She must be in bloom. Sometimes she comes nose to nose with her mother and repeats her own name until it loses meaning and makes her laugh. Sometimes she punches her mother in the stomach. Sometimes she bites her with the very edge of her teeth. But she can build the highest towers out of wooden blocks all by herself. She is such a big girl now.

The mother´s breasts are now empty and they sag, they drip down her body like so many drops of water. She should get out and is convinced that she can get up whenever she wants to. This is just a long shower. She deserves it. She was opened in half and a baby boy was pulled and pushed and ripped from her belly and now she is supposed to care for him, for both her children, in a country that abducts its young. When her daughter was born, she used to take her to the park on long walks but she couldn’t shake the feeling of walking around with a briefcase full of money, almost tempting someone to take it away from her. An exhausted woman walking around with an infant seemed to her like a provocation. She looked at other mothers and wondered if they felt as safe as they seemed to. They didn´t. One shouldn´t have to learn to live in fear. Can´t she take a long, hot shower? She can get up any time she wants to, go out and play like she used to with that little girl that left a couple of apples for her on the floor mat. The baby boy is back in the stroller. She could get up and look at herself in the mirror, look at that body that is once again her own but she knows that it´s been returned in a poorer condition than it was when she lent it. She no longer holds the baby but she can hear him so she must have put him back in the stroller.

She lies down on her left side and the white tiles welcome her like a pillow under the shadow of the towels and her shelter feels more like a cave now. She won´t move, she´ll stay there and people will have to jump over her on their ascent to everyday life. She will become a landmark. Green Boots.

Her daughter stands by the shower door now, wearing nothing but her own tiny rain boots, and she carries an umbrella. She steps into the shower, sits next to her mother and opens the umbrella.

 
 

Image credit: Sarah via Flickr (edited by The Learned Pig)

 
 

The Learned Pig

 

Paulette Jonguitud

Paulette Jonguitud is the author of Mildew, published in English by CB EDITIONS and in Spanish by FETA/CONACULTA. She has also written El loco del martinete, a children’s book published in Mexico and Spain by Grupo EDEBÉ. She has been an artist in residence at the MacDowell Colony and a fellow of Fundación para las Letras Mexicanas and FONCA in its Program for Young Creators.